Ukraine calling

15 kilometers – part two

Searching for Eden

By Yevgenia “Jane” Laptii 

My name is Jane. I am a photographer from Ukraine. The war caught up with me when I was in my village, Cherkas’kiy Tyshky, with my grandfather and grandmother. We were occupied instantly on February 24, 2022, at 6 a.m.

15 kilometers is the distance that separated our village, which is under occupation by Russian forces, and Kharkiv, which is held by Ukrainian troops.

My village, which is between Kharkiv and the Russian border, is still under occupation. I managed to escape, but I spent twenty days there, which I will describe in this weekly column.



Every time I think about my village, I picture roads covered in snow. I see the heavy, gray sky that has no end, and the black windows of houses. Winter in March brought sporadic sun rays that cut through thick clouds. There were too few of them—too little sun, too little warmth, too little hope. That is how it stuck in my memory: as a dull, cold winter village. 

Meanwhile, it is spring there right now. Real spring, which happens only there. The plum, apricot and cherry trees are blooming, and thousands of bees are buzzing above them. Maybugs fly out at night when the sky is drunk with that sweet, hot nectar, and play with a billion colors. 

Photos from Jane’s 2018-2019 series “Hero with a thousand faces”.

But where I stay right now, nothing like this happens. The sky is pale and dim, as if there is no blood in it. It does not try hard enough.

As I was saying, when my land breeds thousands of different flowers and the grass is rolling as sea waves into the horizon, the sun burns the soil. It warms it up till steam comes from it. And then the sky descends to earth. It brings storm artillery. Heavy black clouds full of rain and lightning come closer and closer to the ground. Oh! You better hide, bombs, because you cannot conquer our thunders.

Jane’s village can be seen in the background of all three photos.

Everything goes quiet. No bird or grasshopper will break this quietness. A minute of silence before the first volley of thunder is a law. It is a sacred moment. A moment of genuine stillness, when even the air stands motionless and everyone is waiting for the clouds to fill with fury and blow up. Bam! The lightning cuts the sky in half. It is more powerful than trillions of bombs. It will show whose land it is—who is the owner. These storm clouds have been living here for millions of years. They are the guardians of this land. It is their homeland, and any bomb is nullity compared to them. 

The rain has come. It brings coolness onto the burning soil. The wind picks up the smell of grass and pollen and brings it to the treetops. 

The thunder is rolling, and the bombs are falling, but I do not see them. I was cast out of my Eden. I am far away from it. I have been exiled. I am in a foreign land. It is quiet, calm, and bloodless. 

Speaking about the photos, Jane explains, “I specifically select very beautiful photos so that they contrast with the text. The beauty of my village and the horrors brought by the Russian army. Unfortunately, we could not take photos during the occupation, because drones were flying and we could be shot for it.”


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